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An outsider’s guide to live music in London

Posted at 5:15 pm, November 25, 2012 in Music & Nightlife

O2 Academy BrixtonTom Norton is an Australian musician who moved to London this summer. Here’s his outsider perspective of London’s thriving music scene…

‘I moved to Berlin about a year ago with a band i was playing with from Melbourne called Citizen Sex. They had to go home because of visa issues so i moved to London in August and have been here since. Good times!

‘As the Led Zeppelin song goes, ‘Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share’. Around seven years ago this pearl of Plantian wisdom got me thinking, where are the good times to be found, and how could I get my share of them? My conclusion? Head to London of course! It’s the same thought that’s occurred to millions of others around the world over the years. My particular sense of quivering excitement was at the possibility that I could experience the city’s music scene.

Now I’m here, I realise more than ever that the enjoyment of live music comes with a price tag. I had barely scratched the surface of gigs in the capital before I had used up more dough than a branch of Pizza Express. Yes there have been good times, but there have been bad as well. On reflection, here are the five best things and the five worst things about the music scene in London, as seen through the bleary eyes of a foreigner:

Good times

• The bands. There are more here than surfers on Bondi beach.

• The Jukebox at the Three Kings of Clerkenwell. Every single track in this jukebox is a gem. In fact I’m sure pub owners in Australia would swim to London to purchase such a collection of seven inch records for their own establishment. A wonderful pub in which to spend an evening and a few pounds on great tunes.

• Blues bars. ‘It went straight to my nervous system.’ That was how Eric Clapton summed up his experience of the blues. But in London’s blues bar it’s not the music alone that has an effect on the central cortex. There’s usually sufficient whisky consumed to get Clapton, or anyone else, hopped up.

• O2 Academy Brixton (above). Being able to watch a band in a 1929, Art Deco theatre is a luxury not to be taken for granted. Sweaty Berlin gigs in basements are still an experience to be had, but after walking into O2 Academy Brixton, the comparison is wet socks to fluffy slippers.

• Mondays. So many amazing bands get booked on the first day of the working week. It’s as if London promoters have created a ‘Monday filter’ so that only the devoted weekday crusaders can afford the Tuesday hangover.

Bad times

• Mondays. So many amazing bands get booked on the first day of the working week. I can’t afford a Tuesday hangover.

• The bands. With so many options, each night of gigs feels like you’re reading the programme for a one-day festival. One that you’re stood outside because you’re too broke to afford a ticket. Which reminds me…

• It’s expensive. I sold my teeth last week to pay for a beer at a jazz bar. Sorry, worse than that, to pay for a pint of snakebite. Oh, which reminds me…

• Snakebite. Actually maybe this should be in the ‘Good Times’ section?

• Bruce Springsteen buskers. Impersonating Bruce Springsteen in some parts of the world is considered a chargeable offence, especially in Nebraska. An appropriate punishment for such a crime would be lashing by banjo strings. Nobody can touch The Boss!

To be honest, the things that comprise the Bad Times section account for a very small slice of life in London for a foreigner. In fact, if you think of the music scene in London as a family-sized cherrypie, the bad times would be represented by a single cherry. The rest is delicious, sweet, steaming hot good times. See you at the bar.’

For this week’s gigs, see timeout.com/music. WHat do you think of London’s gigging scene? Comment below.

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